When students reflect on their own learning in practice

The first round of collecting data at the Teacher Education Programme is now over, and I’m starting to get into my data.
The data collection ended with presentations from the students, where they shared their reflections on, their experiments in practice and how had an effect on their learning.  The students had many interesting points, and it seems that the overall design did support them in transforming knowledge and ways of participation between education and school.
Since the first cycle of data collection is now completed, this blog post will focus on some of the first impressions I have regarding my data as a whole.  Even though I have not fully begun to analyze my data in depth, some indications slowly seem to show, by just looking at my observation log and the reflections provided by the students, through my interviews and their presentations. Mainly four topics have caught my interest at this point, namely:

  • Observation groups as a valuable design element
  • How experiments in practice prove helpful for transformation of knowledge
  • Students ability to reflect directly and indirectly on their learning
  • How different kinds of tasks and activities afford differently on students transformation of knowledge

The first topic is on the role of the observation groups as supporting structure for the visits in practice. The intention of the observations groups was, from the beginning, to give the teaching group feedback on their performance in the classroom. From my point of view as a researcher, they also had a role in supporting or challenging my views on the observed. As a way of distancing myself from the field (reducing bias), the observing group could provide valuable insights and arguments that could support or challenge my interpretations. However, the observing groups, as a concept, has proven to be much more than that. The students repeatedly expressed how valuable they thought the groups were both as a feedback mechanism and as a way of being inspired through the use of dialogue and reflecting on practice. At the same time the observing team felt that by observing fellow students, they learned much as well. The observations seemed to be a good foundation for their future planning as well being able to negotiate ideas, building on the other group’s teachings and getting an insight into the classroom culture and the prerequisites of the 5th-grade students.

However, the observing groups, as a concept, has proven to be much more than that. The students repeatedly expressed how valuable they thought the groups were both as a feedback “mechanism r structure” and as a way of being inspired through dialogue and reflection on practice. At the same time the observing team felt that by observing fellow students, they learned much as well. The observations seemed to be a good foundation for their future planning as well being able to negotiate ideas, building on the other group’s teachings and getting an insight into the classroom culture and the prerequisites of the 5th-grade students.

The second topic relates to how the practice experiments proved useful for the students to transform knowledge between contexts of education and school. By now my data indicates some different interesting findings, but one special point of interest for me is, to which extent the students themselves manage to connect the two contexts, the requirement characteristics of them and how much the design needs to afford this process. How much support do the students need? Do we have to design for these connections or do the students grasp these opportunities themselves?  Transfer mechanisms, boundary crossing, sense-making and patterns of participation become relevant topics for me here.

The third topic is tricky. It relates to my analysis of my interviews with the students. The challenge is that the students not necessarily can explain or even are aware of what they know or how they have transformed their knowledge from one setting to the next. This is a hard and a very complicated affair to investigate and requires me to dig deep into my data and draw lines between the students learning trajectories, how they planned their experiments, how the acted and reacted on practice and how the articulate while in situ and afterward reflect. Nevertheless, the student’s abilities to reflect on their learning must be a specific interest if I am to counter the critique of transfer research first put out by Jean Lave in the late eighties and afterward emphasized by others. I here think on the critique that research within the field only recognize transfer that occurs within what we can measure between the given learning situation and the transfer situation. So seeing what the students do not necessarily see or can reflect upon is also a focus for my research. And that might prove hard to do.

The last topic seems easier to get on with since it’s more fit for an analytical approach. Through my observations, it became very clear to me how tasks and activities supported students in different ways and that the students reacted differently on taking up the opportunities presented through the tasks and activities.  Roughly three main categories of activities approached. The first relating to the domain or subject matter of the course, where students engaged in reflections and discussions on a meta-level and were much based on theoretical concepts. Here the students needed to be very aware of, how the content could relate to practice. The teacher very explicitly had to point most students in the direction on how the theory could be applied to teaching students at school and how the theory would relate to this practice.
The second type of tasks and activities could be characterized as simulations. Often the teacher would start out with the phrase: “If we now try to act as if we would be at a real school” or “now we play that I’m the teacher and you are the students of a fifth-grade class.” These type of activities already have an expanded framework where the fifth-grade classroom as a concept is providing the setting for the activity. Throughout these activities, the students were more aware of the end goal of teaching, and the tasks and activities seemed to scaffold and support the student’s transformation knowledge from educational toward practical grounded.
The third type of tasks and activities are directly applicable and not necessarily (as the two previous) dependent on a specific subject. These activities were generic in the sense that they could be applied under many different circumstances. Eg. Throwing a beanbag and rhyming on the letter “B” or reading out loud from a textbook at the beginning of a lesson.

No doubt that transformation of knowledge depends on the student’s ability to learn in a given situation. But throughout the first iteration of the design, it became apparent to me, that the design both had to be for learning (as both acquisition and participation) and transformation.
How the design supports the student to notice and take up opportunities to learn, seem to rely on both the affordances of the tasks and activities within the design as well as support structures that prepare them to meet the prerequisites of future (teaching and learning) situations. But conclusions on these parts are yet to come 🙂

 

 

 

Books, Instagram and writing my first research article

The weekly digest

It has been a fantastic week on many aspects of the project.
For the first time this semester, I got to the studying part of the project. It is quite a great feeling to have surpassed most of the obligations that I need to fulfil around the project that is teaching, so I can begin focusing on my data, thesis, and the forthcoming writing on my first research article.

The article has the working title of “Participatory Skills for Learning in a Networked World”. It is to be a contribution to a special issue, where the Danish research team of the project work with the Dutch team from Open University, that we visited earlier this fall. See a blog post on that here

The editors are Nina Bonderup Dohn (my supervisor) and Maarten de Laat, and the plan is to publish it around a year from now.
I will keep you in the loop about the progress.

For the occasion, I got a copy of a newly published book by De Laat and another good colleague, Thomas Ryberg, who is also part of the FKK-Research Group. I’m very thrilled about the book and will just share some thoughts on it here:


book_ryberg_delaat

The book takes a qualified venture through three main implications on Networked Learning. First of all a political perspective, then a learner’s perspective on the boundaries between e.g. work and school and what designs can be and cannot and lastly a view on implication for researching in Networked Learning. All three topics are weaved and relate to each other, giving a feeling of strong co-relation among the chapters and that all three perspectives an equally important to address.

The book draws on a variety of theories from both cognitive and socio -cultural perspectives. Bakhtin’s concept of chronotype (configurations of time and space ) is used to analyse online learners movements, and Socio-material theories underpin how artefacts are used to develop students digital literacies, How tasks and activities are not always aligning and how students engage in sense-making activities are also topics that are addressed

The topics are highly relevant for my research, and it is great to read something that sets own thoughts into perspective. I can highly recommend the book, to anyone interested in Networked Learning.

Instagram – another layer of empirical data

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As you might notice, I have attached an Instagram widget to my site. I’ve decided to use Instagram as a tool for freezing specific moments from my trips into the field. I think Instagram is useful for several reasons.

First of all, it allows me to provide my images with hashtags, making them easy to find through keywords like #analysis; #literature or #boundary, etc. These tags will give me a chance to better remember and provide images around specific topics for my analysis.
Furthermore, it allows me to write down immediate thoughts on the particular situation, further providing relevant details to my observation log that supports the need for thick descriptions.
Thirdly its just looks nice and even though not many others use Instagram as a visual layer to their research, I can use it to promote my project even further when networking with colleagues around the world. Not all pictures are strictly for data usage, and I also use it for more casual updates not suited for a blog post. In time, I hope, it will provide some fruitful layers to my project.

Feel free to dig in and follow my @Designs4learning account.